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Posted by Kathi ( on August 11, 2000 at 00:57:49:

As usual, I wake up, not sure if I'm being stabbed in the head. I stumble into the bathroom. I am hyperaware of all the sounds and smells around me. The slight traces of microwave popcorn in the air are magnified until they reach a nauseating pitch. The soap in the soapdish smells like an overpowering, cloying perfume...something very old women wear on blistering days. I grip the sides of the sink and turn on the hot water. I soak a washcloth and hold it over my eye...pressing so hard that I see bolts of lightning in my head. I'm so warm it's as if I'm in a steambath.Slowly, the pain sneaks up on me, becoming more impossibly vivid. And my dance of the undead begins. The pain starts to talk to me, taunt me. I envision her as a small, demonic child. She giggles and then screams, smiling with delight as I cringe in agony and fall to me knees. I silently bargain with her, stop this pain and I'll do anything you want. She laughs and starts to dance...sending shockwaves of stabbing ice through my eye. She taunts me...tells me to beg. And I do. I offer all my wordly possessions, my sanity, my soul.
And at the moment I think I would rather be dead than feel this anymore, she grows bored with the game. She begins to wander off with her back to me. As she stops to crush some flowers in her small hand, she giggles and tells me she'll come back...soon.
I open my eyes and look around in terror. I'm never really sure if the pain is gone or just hiding. After an eternity, I put the lights on, very dim, and look at my face. I am sure this is how terminal cancer patients look. Or people who have seen death and destruction from war and violence. I look white, scared and I don't recognize myself at all. I reach out and touch things...familiar items...to reassure myself that I'm home...safe.
I get up slowly. I feel bruised, fragile and drained. I feel these sparkles of pain all over the left side of my head. I slowly creep back down the hall in the black of night. I promised myself I'd never do this again, but I just can't help myself. As quietly as I can, I crawl into my daughters bed. She smells like clean soap and bubble gum. I crawl in beside her and lay my throbbing temple against her hair. Big, glossy tears fall down my face as I hold her. I concentrate on her steady breathing. I feel her strong youth...uncomplicated by pain and adult worries. And I shamefully draw strength from her, using her presence to bring me back to reality.
I often wonder what I'll do when she's grown and gone. Will I walk with the undead all night?

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